The congressional “supercommittee” stumbled its way toward failure Sunday, with final staff-level discussions focusing mostly on how the panel should publicly admit that lawmakers could not meet their mandate of shaving $1.2 trillion from the federal debt.
Rather than making a final effort at compromise, members of the special deficit-reduction committee spent their final hours casting blame and pointing fingers, bracing for the reaction from financial markets that are already jittery over the European debt crisis.
If Congress can’t come up with a way to cut $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, the Budget Act will do it for them unless some sort of postponement is worked out. A look at the deadlines that must be met and what happens if they’re not:
The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold gives a rundown of what the proposals of the supercommittee are, the major deadlines for the debt panel and the consequences of failure.
The ‘fiscal cliff’ in graphs and GIFs
(Paul Kane live chatted with readers Monday about the reasons behind the supercommittee’s failure. Read the transcript. )
Half of the 12 lawmakers turned to the Sunday political news shows as their outlet, speaking of their effort in the past tense and accusing the other side of intransigence that they blamed for the failure to clinch a deal. There were no last-minute negotiations, no behind-closed-doors huddles, just a near-empty Capitol in which senior aides could not agree on how to formally shutter the panel by Monday night.
The only face-to-face meetings for members of the supercommittee came in the green rooms of the talk shows. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) blamed the committee’s failure on Democratic reluctance to cut into popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare. “Our Democratic friends were never able to do the entitlement reforms,” Kyl said, arguing that Democrats were the roadblock to a deal. “They weren’t going to do anything without raising taxes.”
Calling Kyl’s remarks “patently not true,” Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of blocking the committee’s work by demanding an extension of George W. Bush-era tax cuts and refusing to consider significant tax increases on wealthier people. “We didn’t come here to do another tax cut to the wealthiest people while we’re [asking] fixed-income seniors to ante up more, people on Medicaid who are poor to ante up more,” he said.
Barring a last-second breakthrough, the law calls for a punitive set of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to kick in at the start of 2013, with half coming from national security budgets. Kyl and other lawmakers have embraced reconfiguring the automatic cuts to save the Pentagon from such steep cuts, but any movement that decreases the overall savings runs the risk of causing financial ratings agencies to downgrade the U.S. Treasury’s debt.
Senior staff members ran a last round of checks Sunday to make sure there wasn’t some final give from the other side. There wasn’t. Aides left the Capitol on Sunday evening with no clear path for shutting down the panel, which, under the committee’s rules, needed to unveil legislation before midnight Monday.
Republicans prefer releasing a joint statement from the co-chairmen, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), after the markets close Monday, fearing that formally ending their effort could set off a market reaction. Democrats were considering pushing for a brief public statement from the co-chairmen.